Federal Circuit Awards Sanctions for Frivolous Appeal

E-Pass v. 3Com, Palm, Visa, et al. (Fed. Cir. 2009)

This litigation began in 2000 when E-Pass sued for infringement of its electronic credit card patent. Patent No. 5,276,311. The district court granted summary judgment of non-infringement, which was affirmed on appeal. The district court then found the case exceptional under 35 U.S.C. § 285 and awarded attorneys’ fees to the defendants. E-Pass appealed that judgment. In a counter-motion, PalmSource also asked for attorneys fees for the appeal – arguing that the appeal was frivolous as well. The Federal Circuit affirmed the trial court without opinion, but wrote an extensive opinion finding a frivolous appeal.

Frivolous Appeal: An appeal is frivolous if the appellant fails “to present cogent or clear arguments for reversal.” In addition, the court may award sanctions based on misconduct or misrepresentations to the appellate court.

Here, the court found that E-Pass did not present any specific argument relating to the attorney fees for one of the defendants – PalmSource. Instead, the plaintiff-appellant focused on its case against the other defendants. E-Pass did not “challenge any finding of the district court relating to litigation misconduct in the case against PalmSource.” Furthermore, E-Pass did not change its strategy even after being notified of PalmSource’s frivolous appeal argument. Adding to E-Pass’s problems are “multiple misrepresentations” to the Federal Circuit – primarily in referring to the defendants collectively when each stood in different situations. Perhaps the straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back was E-Pass’s use of the quote that “a trial court may only sanction the patentee if both the litigation is brought in subjective bad faith and the litigation is objectively baseless.” With the help of PalmSource and the CAFC clerks, the court easily found that a critical exception to the sanctions rule had been left off. Notably, the full quote reads: “Absent misconduct in the litigation or in securing the patent, a trial court may only sanction the patentee if both the litigation is brought in subjective bad faith and the litigation is objectively baseless.”

Sanctions and attorney fees granted against E-Past and its counsel, jointly and severally.

In dissent, Judge Bryson saw serious misconduct, but would not have imposed sanctions.

Accepting that in those regards E-Pass’s briefs on appeal fell short of the standards we expect of counsel in this court, I nonetheless conclude that the shortfall is not so egregious as to call for the imposition of sanctions.

Obviousness; Scope and Content of the Prior Art; Secondary Considerations

Süd-Chemie v. Multisorb Technologies (Fed. Cir. 2009)

Süd-Chemie holds a patent covering a desiccant container for keeping products dry in shipment. In an infringement action, the Kentucky district court found the patent invalid as obvious. On appeal, the Federal Circuit vacated – holding that the lower court had erred in its analysis of the scope and content of the prior art. There are two primary take-away points from Sud-Chemie. First, obviousness jurisprudence continues to require detailed analysis of the claims and the prior art. I.e., KSR did not suddenly allow handwaving as a substitute for evidence and clear argument. Second, well presented secondary indicia of nonobviousness continue to be important in rebutting obviousness allegations.

Here, the claimed patent required the use of “compatible polymeric materials” used in a laminate seal. The prior art disclosed the use of laminate materials taken from the same general class of materials. However, the Federal Circuit recognized that the prior art did not specify that the selected materials be “compatible” in a way to allow for a proper laminate seal.

This is a case where a definition of the claim term in the specification greatly aided the patentee. The specification defined “compatible” materials as those that “mix on a molecular scale and will crystallize homogeneously.” The prior art reference did not teach this form of compatibility. In fact, the prior art appeared to teach “incompatible” materials.  

Multisorb ignores the fact that while the ’942 patent requires the inner surfaces of the laminate and microporous films to have similar softening points, Komatsu [the prior art] requires the films to have dissimilar softening points. Komatsu thus does not teach the use of a microporous film that is compatible with the inner surface of the laminate film.

Looking at secondary considerations, the Federal Circuit instructed district courts to “attend carefully to any evidence of … secondary considerations of nonobviousness.” Here, the focus is on the surprising and unexpected result that compatible materials formed stronger bonds even without adhesive.

The Federal Circuit did not apply these findings to form a conclusion on the issue of obviousness. Rather, the court remanded for further development of the facts.

[NOTE- This decision is from January 2009]

Orion and Taurus: NPEs at the Federal Circuit

Erich Spangenberg has at least two pending appeals at the Federal Circuit: Taurus IP v. Daimlerchrysler (and Hyundai) and Orion IP v. Hyundai Motor. In the Taurus case, the Wisconsin District Court found the asserted patent (6,141,658) invalid and also asserted jurisdiction over Spangenberg and Orion IP via a veil-piercing theory. In a recent order, the Federal Circuit properly refused to allow Chrysler and Mercedes to present argument and documents “in camera” in that case. [Link] In the Orion case, a Texas court found Hyundai liable for infringement of the asserted patent (5,367,627) and awarded $34 million in damages. Hyundai has posted $25 million bond to stay the full payment until the appeal is concluded. [LINK ]. The general rule is that money damages will be stayed pending appeals if bond is posted, and that injunctive relief might be stayed.

The ‘627 patent is patent reformer’s poster child for damages reform. The patent covers a method that helps a sales clerk properly order the parts that match a customer’s needs. It is hard to know what the value of the incremental invention as compared with the prior art back in 1989 when the original application was filed. I will note that the $34 million patent has only 15 claims and includes means-plus-function language in the claims. Claim 1 of the patent is reproduced below:

1. A computerized method of selling parts for particular equipment specified by a customer, comprising the steps of:

a) receiving information identifying a customer’s parts requirements for the equipment, comprising the step of receiving equipment application information, comprising an identification of the equipment with which one or more parts are to be used;

b) electronically specifying information identifying a plurality of parts and specifications for the parts;

c) gathering parts-related information for one or more parts within the plurality of parts which meets the customer’s requirements, comprising the step of electronically associating at least one of the parts within the plurality of parts with the received equipment application information; and

d) receiving the gathered parts-related information and compiling the parts-related information into a proposal meeting the customer’s requirements.

Although the ‘658 patent does not claim priority to the earlier ‘627 patent, it does have one overlapping inventor and a large amount of overlapping scope.

Looking Ahead: Preclusive Effect of Prior Claim Construction

Shire v. Sandoz, M-893 (Fed. Cir. 2009)

In a recent order, the Federal Circuit agreed to hear an interlocutory appeal considering the issue preclusive effect of a prior claim construction decision. The patent in suit has been construed at least twice before, but the lower court here “refused to give preclusive effect” to either prior ruling. This will be an interesting case to follow.


Federal Circuit Begins Publishing Orders on Motions

The Federal Circuit has taken another valuable step toward transparency in its operations. Notably, the court has begun to post electronic versions of orders resolving motions that are processed through its Senior Staff Attorney. Publication began on January 30, 2009. I have sought some clarification from the Court on its statement that “certain orders are not posted on this page.”

The outcomes of motions are important to the parties involved as well as amicus filers. There have also been occasions when the outcome of a motion impacts stock prices. Perhaps the most common stock-swinging issue involves the Federal Circuit’s decision on whether to stay injunctive relief pending appeal. Previously, these orders were difficult to obtain electronically or remotely.

Certain motions may be decided by the Clerk – especially when a motion is unopposed. Others go to a Federal Circuit judge assigned to handle motions that month. My understanding is that the Senior Staff Attorney will ordinarily present the motion (and response) to the judge with a potential order as well. If a case is already scheduled on the hearing calendar, motions will be transmitted to the panel for adjudication.

Most of the orders are mundane. Here is a sample from last week:

  • IGT v. Alliance Gaming: Denying motion to dismiss on for lack of subject matter jurisdiction (no final order).
  • Blackboard v. Desire2Learn: Granted motion to remove protective order covering the E.D. Tex. supplemental claim construction judgment.
  • Garber v. CME: Extension of time granted.
  • The Forrest Group v. Bon Tool: Motion granted to allow Paul Hletko to file an amicus brief. Forrest Group had opposed.
  • Excel Innovations v. Indivos Corp: Motion granted to allow Mark Davies to take over as principal counsel.


  • Search for CAFC Orders [LINK]
  • CAFC Guide to Motion Practice [LINK]
  • Top 10 easy-to-fix problems with motions [LINK]

Cardiac Pacemaker v. Jude: Challenging 271(f) Liability for Components of a Method

Cardiac Pacemakers v. St. Jude Medical (On motion for en banc rehearing)

35 U.S.C. § 271 defines various types of patent infringement including direct infringement and contributory infringement. Section 271(f) details a special cause of action that captures some transnational activities. In particular, Section 271(f) creates a cause of action for supplying components of a patented invention to be assembled abroad.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled on a 271(f) case — finding that software per se cannot be considered a “component” under the statute. Microsoft v AT&T, 550 U.S. 437 (2007). In December 2008, the Federal Circuit decided Cardiac Pacemaker and held that the Microsoft v. AT&T did not overrule a prior precedential ruling that Section 271(f) does extend to cover components of a claimed method. “[T]he Supreme Court’s decision does not alter [the] holding” that “271(f) applies to components used in the performance of patented methods and processes.” The precedent in question is Union Carbide v. Shell. Although the Federal Circuit denied a request to rehear the Union Carbide case, Judges Lourie, Michel, and Linn, argued then that the issue was ready for en banc review. Judge Dyk also dissent from the en banc denial in Union Carbide.

In their decision, the panel (Judges Newman, Mayer, & Lourie) practically begged for en banc rehearing: “As a panel, we cannot reverse the holding of another panel of this court. We thus affirm the district court’s decisions relating to damages.” [Link] Of course, Judge Mayer signed-on to Judge Rader’s original Union Carbide opinion.

Now, the defendant (St. Jude) has asked for a rehearing en banc. If unsuccessful, we can expect a petition for a writ of certiorari. The FCBA and AIPLA joined forces in an amicus brief supporting the rehearing en banc and for a reversal of the Union Carbide analysis. Writing on behalf of Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle, and Symantec, Ed Reines also argues that the rule should be overturned. The tech companies argue in particular that the limit on exports creates major adverse economic incentives.

“A very common business arrangement is for United States companies to export instructions, materials, recipes, and other knowledge-exports to Asian and other off-shore locations where manufacturing processes takes place. An overbroad extraterritorial interpretation of § 271(f) to apply to process patents creates potential worldwide liability for companies based in the United States that export anything that can properly be considered a process step. Yet, if their competitors exist outside the United States, they are not exposed to liability for United States patent infringement for supporting foreign manufacturing processes.”

A good handful of judges have at least loosely indicated that they would support an en banc rehearing — making this a very likely candidate.



Federal Circuit Announces Proposed Amendments to Its Internal Operating Procedures

The Federal Circuit has proposed several amendments to its Internal Operating Procedures (IOP).  Comments on the proposed changes are due by July 18, 2008. Most of the proposed changes reflect current practice. [Proposed changes]

Notable changes include:

  • Motion practice: When a motion relates to an appeal that has already been remanded, the motion may be referred to the same panel for consideration.
  • Expedited Appeal: The ‘motion panel’ may choose to hear an appeal as the ‘merits panel’ upon granting a motion to expedite.
  • Confidential Material: Materials submitted subject to a protective order will be disposed of upon completion of the case.
  • Making orders Public: The old rules distinguished how precedential and non-precedential materials were publicized. Under the new rule, “all dispositions” are to be published in the daily disposition sheet.

CAFC: Failing to Submit Invention Inspiration OK; Failing to Submit Product Code of Preferred Input Not OK.

PatentLawPic305TALtech v. Esquel Apparel (Fed. Cir. 2008) (nonprecedential)

: (1) An applicant need not disclose its own prior work or inspiration for invention if merely cumulative of other references cited; (2) Failing to identify the brand of adhesive tape used in the invention was a best mode violation — resulting in claim invalidation; (3) There is no presumptive order of the steps in a process claim – unless the claim language “requires an ordering of steps” either implicitly or explicitly.

One of TAL’s employees – John Wong – was inspired by TAL’s use of heat-fusible adhesive tape in manufacture raincoats. Over a long process of trial and error, Wong figured out how to use a particular variety of adhesive tape to create a dress shirt that does not pucker after washing. 

After receiving a US utility patent, TAL became embroiled an patent litigation with another Hong-Kong based manufacturer – Esquel Apparel. In that litigation, the district court found TAL’s patent unenforceable due to inequitable conduct during prosecution and invalid for failing to submit fulfill the “best mode” requirement of 35 U.S.C. 112 (inter alia).  Based on the inequitable conduct, the court also awarded attorney fees to Esquel.

Inequitable Conduct: “In this case, the district court found TAL liable for inequitable conduct because inventor John Wong had not disclosed the raincoat seam that inspired his invention to the PTO.” On appeal, the CAFC first dispelled any notion that a patent applicant is required to disclose the inspiration for the invention. Although not stated by the court, 35 U.S.C. 103(a) arguably indicates that the inspiration is not relevant to the patentability inquiry: “Patentability shall not be negatived by the manner in which the invention was made.”

Here, the CAFC noted that TAL’s raincoat may well have been “merely cumulative” to a German patent application that was submitted during prosecution. “If the undisclosed raincoat seam was merely cumulative to [the German application], then no inequitable conduct lies in its nondisclosure.”

Best Mode: At the time of filing, Wong had settled upon a particular type of adhesive tape – known as Vilene SL33 – as the best way to form the seams.  The patent application did not, however, disclose Vilene SL33.  A patent may be invalidated for failing to submit a “best mode” if (1) the inventor possessed a best mode at the time of filing; and (2) the written description fails to disclose the best mode in a way to allow one reasonably skilled in the art to practice that mode.

Possession of the Best Mode
: The evidence clearly showed that Wong “experimented with many adhesives but settled on a preference for one.” Thus, the court agreed that the first prong was met — the inventor did possess a best mode at the time of filing – i.e., Vilene SL33.

On the second prong the CAFC disregarded the applicant’s argument that the PTO “prefers the use of generic names of products” and that there is no evidence that the Vilene brand products are actually better quality than other brands.  Instead, the court honed-in on the result of the first prong – that Vilene SL33 was the best mode known to the inventor – and agreed that the best mode had not been disclosed. “TAL has not explained how the written description teaches one having reasonable skill in the art the way to practice the best mode as found in the analysis of the first prong – the use of Vilene SL33.”

Process Order: “Generally, there is no presumption of order, and so a claim with many steps can be infringed by an accused process performing the claimed steps in any order. However, we will find that the claim requires an ordering of steps when the claim language, as a matter of logic or grammar, requires that the steps be performed in the order written, or the specification directly or implicitly requires such a narrow construction.”

In this case, the claimed process implicitly requires a particular ordering. In particular, the bonding adhesive must be presented before a folding step because the folding step requires that the garment abut the bonding element.

Conclusion: The asserted claims were found invalid and not infringed. The remand appears only necessary to determine inequitable conduct and consequently potential attorney fees.

Ex Parte Bilski: On the Briefs:

In Ex Parte Bilski, an en banc Federal Circuit plans to reconsider the scope of patentable subject matter as it relates to business methods and so called mental methods. Perhaps more importantly to the patent system as a whole, the court is considering the proper procedures going forward for determining whether a particular invention falls within the scope of 35 USC 101.

In its en banc decision, the CAFC invited non-party amici briefs, which were due April 7. (Scroll down to find the briefs).  In reading through the briefs, the first aspect that caught my attention was a common theme that institutional strengths and weaknesses of the PTO and Courts should help dictate the ultimate subject matter rule.  

  • Prof Morris: Through its examiners, the PTO has expertise in determining the technical questions of novelty, nonobviousness, and indefiniteness. On the other hand, examiners do not have the expertise to decide “philosophical and abstract” issues of statutory subject matter.
  • Prof Lemley*: Arbitrary subject matter boundaries have generally been difficult to enforce and usually result in patent attorneys using “magic words” to avoid the limits. (*NOTE: I signed Prof Lemley’s brief along with 21 other law professors.)
  • Prof Collins: A test that excludes “human cognition” elements is administrable.
  • EFF: Proposed three-step process provides a more “efficient and meaningful” way to administer the Section 101 threshold.
  • AIPLA: Section 112 should guard claim scope rather than Section 101.

Narrow or Expansive: The main thrust of the Bilski arguments, however, focus on whether patentable subject matter should be narrow or expansive. I have categorized the briefs on this axis:

Expansive Subject Matter:

  • Prof Lemley: We cannot predict the next area of innovation, and arbitrary limits on patent scope reduces incentives in those potential areas. “Bad patents” should be dealt with using the true tools of the Patent Act: Sections 102, 103, and 112. “Mental methods” should be allowed if they fall within the other requirements of patentability.
  • Regulatory Data Corp (Prof Duffy): Even under a narrow definition, applied economics is now part of the “useful arts.”  Statutory subject matter should only limit claims directed to abstract ideas, physical phenomena, or principles of nature.
  • AIPLA: We should continue to follow Diehr, State Street, & AT&T.
  • RMC: Business methods should be patentable.
  • American Express: Patenting of business and information management processes encourages the development of those useful societal tools.
  • Accenture: Business methods should be patentable regardless of any physicality limitations. Congress has deemed that business methods should be patentable via 35 USC 273.
  • Greg Aharonian: The Supreme Court’s 1876 Cochraine test does not exclusively define “process.” Rather, a patent eligible process should be broadly defined to include any process or method that yields a “useful concrete and tangible result.”
  • Koninklijke Philips: The court should be wary of relying upon precedent that focused on traditional manufacturing methods. Rather, the court should look at the broad definition of process required by Congress in 35 U.S.C. 100(b).

Narrow Subject Matter:

  • Prof Sarnoff: The court should return to the precedent of Flook. The inventive concept of a patent cannot be an abstract idea (such as hedging risk). Likewise, an information processing method must include significant post-solution activity. State Street is unconstitutionally over-broad.
  • End Software patents: Software should not be patentable even when loaded on a computer. Rather, to be patentable, there must be significant additional (non-information processing) physical activity.
  • American Civil Liberties Union: Patents mental processes would violate the first amendment.
  • EFF: There must be a technological component of a patentable invention.
  • Computer & Communications Industry Association: The CAFC should shed its “patentee-centric approach” and insted try to meet the needs of the modern world. In particular, the court should consider the systemic policy implications of its decisions. The policy implications of broader patent coverage is more litigation & rent seeking.
  • IBM: There is no sound policy for allowing business method patents.
  • American Institute of CPAs: Tax methods should not be patentable because they preempt free use of the tax laws. (Of course, the same could be said of CPAs charging corporations for their service).
  • SAP: A process should both (1) have a concrete, useful, and tangible result and (2) be “sufficiently machine-like” in order to avoid preempting work-arounds. However, software processes should be patentable.
  • Prof Collins: The court should add a “human cognition” exception to Section 101. Steps involving human cognition should receive no consideration in judging patentability.
  • Red Hat: Software patents put a huge kink in the open source software movement.
  • Financial Services Industry: State Street and its progeny are unduly broad. A token inclusion of a ‘machine’ in a claim would not render that claim patentable subject matter.
  • Dell & Microsoft: A patentable invention must operate on “something physical.” To be patentable, software should be tied to a computer and cause some physical transformation (such as movement of electrons). And, following Comiskey, a patent should not be granted under 103 if the inventor merely combined well known computer hardware with inventive but otherwise unpatentable software.


  • Yahoo! and Prof Merges: A strict “technology” requirement is too inflexible. State Street taught us that such a strict requirement does not fit well with “onrushing technology.” The Yahoo!/Merges test: a patent eligible process must itself be “stable, predictable, and reproducible” and its result must be “useful, concrete, and tangible.”  Bilski’s claims would not be eligible because they do not define a “stable” process.
  • Intellectual Property Owners Association: A process that is either implemented by a machine or that transforms matter into another state is patentable subject matter.  IPO favorably cites the Flook limitations on on information processing.
  • Business Software Alliance: Courts should err on the side of patentable subject matter because Sections 102, 103, and 112 make-up any slack. Software should be patentable. However, Bilski’s invention is not patentable because it is an abstract idea.
  • Washington State IP Law Assn: The CAFC should re-write State Street to be consistent with Supreme Court precedent.
  • Prof Morris: Subject matter questions should be avoided. Rather the PTO and courts should look to the substantive rules of 102, 103, and 112 to decide the issue. Section 101 jurisprudence has been both haphazard and unfair.

The elephant in the room is the recent Comiskey decision. There, it appeared that the court refused to give any patentable weight to the portion of the invention directed to non-statutory subject matter. In its brief, the Boston Patent Law Assn asks the court to clarify the following statement from Comiskey:

“The routine addition of modern electronics to an otherwise unpatentable invention typically creates a prima facie case of obviousness. Moreover, there is no pertinent evidence of secondary considerations because the only evidence offered is of long-felt need for the unpatentable mental process itself, not long-felt need for the combination of the mental process and a modern communication device or computer.”


  • I signed Professor Lemley’s brief along with twenty-one other law professors. The theory behind the brief follows the IPO brief that I helped draft in the Metabolite case.

Amici Briefs:





Zyprexa Patent Upheld on Appeal

OlanzapineEli Lilly v. Zenith Goldline (Fed. Cir. 2006)

Lilly’s patent covers olanzapine (Zyprexa®) and its use for the treatment of schizophrenia. Three generic manufacturers (Zenith (IVAX), Dr. Reddy’s, and Teva) filed an ANDA and Lilly responded with a complaint in the Southern District of Indiana.  After a bench trial, the district court agreed with Lilly that the patent was valid, infringed, and enforceable.  The defendants appealed to the Court of Appeals of the Federal Circuit.

Anticipation: To anticipate the invention, a prior art reference “must disclose each and every feature of the claimed invention, either explicitly or inherently.”  However, in both Petering and Schaumann, prior art references that disclosed the family of the claimed compound were found to anticipate the claimed compound — even though the claimed compounds were not specifically discussed.

Here, the CAFC found that those cases were not applicable because the closest reference to olanzapine did not spell out “a definite and limited class of compounds that enabled a person of ordinary skill in the art to at once envisage each member in this limited class.”

Obviousness: The CAFC agreed that the prior art references did not suggest a the compound. In addition, Lilly provided strong evidence of secondary considerations, including: “(1) a long-felt and unmet need; (2) failure of others; (3) industry acclaim; and (4) unexpected results.”

The record shows a long-felt need for a safer, less toxic, and more effective clozapine-like drug; a decade (or more) of failure to find a replacement for clozapine; a reasonable amount of commercial success for olanzapine; and a number of awards for olanzapine as indicators of industry acclaim.

Public Use: Prior to filing the patent application, Lilly conducted Phase I clinical safety trials. The court found, however, that the trials were well within the experimental use exception:

In this case, Lilly tailored its tests to their experimental drug safety and efficacy purpose, adequately monitored for results, and maintained confidentiality throughout the duration of the study. The trial court did not err in finding no public use.


Plumtree: DJ Jurisdiction, On-Sale Bar

UntitledPlumtree v. Datamize (Fed. Cir. 2006)

Declaratory Judgment Jurisdiction: The Datamize patents cover software authoring tools for creating software kiosks. Datamize had earlier sued Plumtree for patent infringement and had also told Plumtree that it would be infringing the soon-to-issue continuation application. When the continuation did issue, Plumtree filed a declaratory judgment action — giving the CAFC one last opportunity to opine on its reasonable apprehension test before the Supreme Court issues its MedImmune decision in early 2007.

A declaratory judgment action requires an actual controversy between interested parties. The DJ plaintiff must show (1) some action by the patentee that creates a reasonable apprehension of facing a patent infringement lawsuit and (2) some activity on the part of the DJ plaintiff that could constitute infringement. With a few bright-line exceptions (such as that seen in MedImmune), the court looks to the totality of the circumstances when determining whether a reasonable apprehension of suit exists. 

Here, the court found that the prior suit on similar technology exhibited a “course of conduct” indicating a “willingness to protect [its patented] technology”and thus “created a reasonable apprehension of suit.”

On Sale Bar: Once jurisdiction was established, the CAFC looked to determine whether the Datamize patents were invalid for being on-sale more than one year prior to the filing of the application. Here, the appellate panel found that sale of a kiosk did not violate the on-sale bar because the patents did not cover the kiosks themselves.  The court noted, however, that the on-sale bar would be triggered if either (1) the sales contract required use of the patented method or (2) the patented method was actually used to complete the contract prior to the critical date.  Plumtree, however, could not prove either of those — the agreement “did not unambiguously require use of the patented method” and there was no evidence that the patented method was actually performed prior to the critical date.

Notes: This is the second CAFC opinion involving these two parties. The earlier case involved the same technology but a different patent.  That patent was invalid as indefinite because the claims included the terms “aesthetically pleasing.”

Judge Moore Opinions: Short, Focused, and To-The-Point

PatentlyO2006018In re Hays (Fed. Cir. 2006) (Nonprecedential)

New Circuit Court Judge Kimberly Moore’s first opinion is likely to be predictive of her future work — short, focused, and to-the-point. 

This case involves a pretty neat invention of a tissue holder for an automobile visor. The BPAI had rejected the claims as anticipated, but the PTO later conceded that the cited reference (relating to a golf-tee holder that clips to a lapel) was not anticipatory.

The PTO is fully expected to present a new grounds of rejection.  In all likelihood, the patent will never issue because another round of appeal would be prohibitively expensive for this type of invention.

Vacated and Remanded.

  • This does not really count as Judge Moore’s first opinion because it is a non-precedential opinion. In a few weeks, we’ll get the real one.

Inducement Requires Knowledge of The Patent and Culpable Mens Rea

PatentlyO2006017DSU Medical v. JMS (Fed. Cir. 2006) (en banc)

The interesting portion of this opinion rests in Section III.B, where the CAFC convened an en banc panel to clarify that “inducement” of infringement requires intent to induce actual infringement, which necessarily requires knowledge of the patent.

Section 271(b) of the Patent Act spells out the tort: “Whoever actively induces infringement of a patent shall be liable as an infringer.”

Applying the language of Grokster, the CAFC clarified that in patent cases, “the intent requirement for inducement requires more than just intent to cause the acts that produce direct infringement. . . . [I]nducement requires evidence of culpable conduct, directed to encouraging another’s infringement.”  According to the court, this culpable conduct requires knowledge of the patent and an intent to induce infringement of the patent.

As Kevin Noonan has noted, the distinction in this case is that “there was evidence (an opinion of counsel and testimony from corporate officials) that the defendant believed that the accused behavior was not infringement. Thus, CAFC said the evidence supported the trial court’s finding that the defendant did not intend to induce infringement, which was the mens rea required for liability under 35 USC 271(b).”

Even under DOE, “predetermined” combo must be determined beforehand

BingoPlanet Bingo v. Gametech (Fed. Cir. 2006).

Planet Bingo is the exclusive licensee of two patents covering a way to play bingo.  This game combines the numbers with an indicator (such as the color red) to give enhanced awards. The patent claims a “predetermined” winning combination, and that is where the dispute lies.

In the accused game of “rainbow bingo,” the color of the first ball chosen serves as the indicator.  Since that color is not known before the game begins, the court found it was not “predetermined.” as required by the claims.

Planet Bingo, however, asserted infringement under the DOE. Although the defendant’s indicator color is not known before the game begins, it is known immediately after the first bingo ball is drawn — something that is equivalent.  The CAFC disagreed, finding that under Warner-Jenkinson, a color that is “predetermined” cannot, as a matter of law, be equivalent to a color that is selected immediately after the game starts.

Here, the court focused particular attention on foreseeability of the asserted equivalent — apparently assuming that most variations in the bingo-arts would be foreseeable.

Unjust Enrichment For Stealing Ideas Does Not Create Patent Jurisdiction

PatentlyO2006014Thompson v. Microsoft (Fed. Cir. 2006).

Thompson sued Microsoft for unjust enrichment under Michigan law.  Arguing that Microsoft stole his idea, patented it, and implemented it in various products. In its motion to dismiss, Microsoft argued that the claim was preempted by federal patent law. (citing Ultra-Precision).

Instead of hearing the appeal, however, the CAFC declined jurisdiction because the case did not arise under federal patent laws as required by Christianson & Holmes v. Vornado.

Thompson’s well-pleaded complaint does not establish that the right to relief necessarily depends on resolution of a substantial question of federal patent law. Thus, the district court’s jurisdiction does not “aris[e] under” section 1338.

In particular, the court noted that preemption alone does not create jurisdiction. An inventorship issue might create an issue, but Thompson’s claim could have theoretically succeeded without proving inventorship (in the strict patent sense).

Case transferred to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Preliminary Injunction Decision, CAFC Forecasts Post-eBay Jurisprudence

PLAVIXSanofi v. Apotex (Fed. Cir. 2006)

Generic manufacturer Apotex wants to make something similar to Sanofi’s Plavix (clopidogrel bisulfate) and filed an ANDA alleging that Sanofi’s patents were invalid.

The two parties worked together to negotiate a settlement.  The agreement, however, was not accepted by state attorneys general even after new terms were presented. Under provisions of the agreement, the regulatory denial killed the settlement and the parties resumed litigation.

Sanofi then filed a motion for preliminary injunction to stop Apotex from selling its product. Within 21 days, the district court issued a PI. (During that time, Apotex shipped six-months of product). Apotex then appealed the PI.  Preliminary injunction jurisprudence has its own four-factor test that is similar to that of permanent injunctions. The plaintiff must show:

  • Reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of the case;
  • Irreparable harm if an injunction is not issued;
  • Balance of hardships tipped in favor of the plaintiff; and
  • Public interest that is not negatively impacted.

The major difference between the factors for consideration in preliminary injunctive relief and those for permanent relief is that preliminary relief requires a showing of a likelihood of success while permanent relief requires success on the merits as a precondition. Thus, the final three factors will give some indication of how the court will rule in post-eBay injunction cases.

Likelihood of success on the merits: Apotex took the odd position of arguing anticipation based on a broadly worded claim of a prior art patent that was examined during prosecution.  The CAFC confirmed that this made the burden of proving invalidity at trial “especially difficult.”  On obviousness, the CAFC confirmed that the unpredictability of enantiomer activity made the claimed dextrorotatory formation nonobvious even if the molecule as a whole was known.

On Irreparable Harm: The settlement agreement between the parties included a provision that capped any damages for infringement by Apotex — seemingly an admission that Sanofi would settle for money damages. The court did not buy-into this argument, but only because of the technicality that the agreement also contemplated an injunction.

Balance of hardships tip entirely in Sanofi’s favor because Apotex chose to launch its product under threat of injunctive relief.  It could have avoided the situation altogether and thus should not benefit from this factor.

Public Interest: The CAFC continued its line of the “importance of the patent system in encouraging innovation.” Interestingly, the court focuses on how the expense of pharmaceutical inventions necessitates strong patent protection. . . . begging the question of whether less expensive innovations (such as software) have less of a public interest in strong patent protection.

Court Retains Article III Jurisdiction To Determine Attorney Fees

HighwayHighway Equipment v. Feco (Fed. Cir. 2006).

The district court dismissed the case with prejudice after the plaintiff gave the defendant a covenant not to sue. Just before trial, the plaintiff gave up and granted a covenant not to sue. The district court dismissed the case, but retained jurisdiction to decide the issue of attorney fees (fees denied).

On appeal, the CAFC first decided the issue of Article III jurisdiction — holding that even after dismissing the case major, the lower court properly retained jurisdiction over the attorney fee issue. The appellate panel then agreed that attorney fees were not justified in this case.